To the delight of many, SeaWorld announced that it would be ending its orca shows at the San Diego park. SeaWorld has faced incredible backlash for its treatment of orcas after the revelatory documentary Blackfish led to increased concern about the well-being of orcas living in captivity. After sparking much controversy and debate following the rise of this documentary, SeaWorld finally decided to drop the orca shows; however, animal rights activists are still left dissatisfied. And they probably have a right to be.
Firstly, SeaWorld refuses to acknowledge a fault on their part. Refusing to cite the reason of the show’s suspension as being out of concern for the welfare of the animals, SeaWorld instead has called out low visitor turnout as the primary culprit in ending the once beloved shows. People don’t want to see animals do circus tricks, explained CEO Joel Manby. Instead, a new attraction will feature the creatures in a more natural setting.
During the recovery period post-Blackfish, SeaWorld had tried to stay afloat and relevant, positively, at least, by releasing 54 promotional videos in attempts to continue luring tourists. Despite these efforts, though, sales had tanked as activists and concerned members of the public latched onto the documentary, calling for an end to the attraction, or even SeaWorld entirely.
Offers of releasing the orcas have seemed to fail, as SeaWorld has consistently insisted that their whales have become used to living in their tanks and that they wouldn’t fare in more natural settings, such as in the ocean. The fact that SeaWorld is willing and able to point to the fact that these whales are no longer able to return and survive in their natural habitat poses the same issue seen in the domestication of animals by humans, namely, that they become reliant on humans for their well-being and survival and as a result, may find themselves incapable of surviving in a natural setting on their own.
In other words, SeaWorld is responsible for the whales being unable to easily assimilate back into life in the ocean. If it is indeed the case that these whales wouldn’t be able to survive on their own, the blame ought to fall to SeaWorld. The company cannot use this as a justification or an excuse, but rather, the public must be reminded that these sorts of situations arose from SeaWorld’s initial lap in judgment when they first introduced whales into their shows.
SeaWorld has managed to escape blame and ridicule by refusing to fess up to its shortcomings, instead using this as a lucrative opportunity to capitalize on national attention to introduce their new and updated, and more natural, attractions. That said, it becomes even more evident that SeaWorld truly doesn’t believe it’s in the wrong given that the parks in Texas and Florida will still continue to have killer whale shows. Furthermore, there has already been talk of opening a SeaWorld attraction in Dubai, a move that has already led to incredible pushback online, including a petition on the famous animal rights activist group’s website, PETA.
Before rejoicing in SeaWorld’s decision to phase out killer whale shows, remain cognizant of the fact that this company is still finding ways to profit off of shows that have been repeatedly criticized for their lack of care of their animals. Furthermore, these events unfortunately also reveal that the era of circus-esque animal shows may not be coming to the end we have all been waiting for.
This article was written by Amar Ojha, founder and writer at dusk magazine.